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Public College Access for Minority and Low Income Students Devastated
In pursuit of higher rankings in “American Best Colleges” and US News Report and numerous websites, many public colleges have dropped their commitment to low-income and minority students. Access to public colleges for minority and low-income students has been devastated by a change in college enrollment management practices. According to a recent Education Trust report, the data on enrollment of low-income and minority students is not encouraging. The report is titled “Promise Abandoned: How Policy Choices and Institutional Practices Resist College Opportunities.” Although the number of African-American students entering college fell from 943,000 in 1974 to 1.9 million in 2004, and Latin American enrollment fell from 353,000 to 1.7 million, their enrollment in the university could not keep pace with the increase in the number of white students. While the number of white high school graduates rose from 2.6 million in 1974 to 1.8 million in 2004, actual college enrollment fell from 7.7 million in 1974 to 9.7 million in 2004.
Education is the key to employment in the information age and thousands of minority and low-income students have been left behind over the past 15 years. Colleges are chasing top students, and they’ve increased financial aid for families earning more than $100,000 by 347%, compared to 91% for families earning between $20,000 and $40,000. Many factors are contributing to this shift toward supporting those who already have upper-class income. Some public universities no longer commit to college access because they have changed their policies over the past fifteen years and are successful. State lawmakers at these public colleges have taken a closer look at who they support for the scarce dollars available.
Policies seem to support giving more merit-based financial aid and more financial aid to middle- and upper-class students who are more likely to graduate. The education gap continues to widen based on student income and ethnicity. Many minority students who come to college arrive with insufficient funds and little experience in advanced math and science courses. They also lack the financial resources to meet the escalating cost of college education. There is no point in providing better access to students who might need more academic support.
It is clear that colleges need to increase their commitment to providing access to minority and low-income students. They overlook the fact that minorities are the fastest growing student population. We risk seeing our ability to compete in the global economy reduced. Publications and websites that rank colleges should include minority and low-income college access as one of the criteria for top-ranking schools. College financial aid and admissions policies must change, and federal and state policy-makers must write legislation that supports low-income and minority students. Dr. Stephen Jones is the author of “Seven Secrets of How to Study”, a study skills book for students of all ages.
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